New Media as News Media
How do Unity College students use new media as a news source?
Unity College is as close to a small liberal arts college as you can get. The student body is a millennial majority and it is pretty safe to say that we are all familiar with new media in one way or another. The people here are unique. We all chose to separate ourselves from the busy world of society and live in the middle-of-nowhere, Maine.
Our backgrounds are all different, but one thing typically remains the same: our passion for the planet and for the environment. Unity College literally integrates climate change and real world situations and crises into the curriculum, so it kind of becomes impossible to not care about what is going on around us. As a bonus, we live in a time where technology offers us vast amounts of information about almost anything. Topics like politics, environmental and social justice issues have hundreds of thousands of sites dedicated solely to that and it is all right in front of us. It seems that it would be so easy to stay informed on both sides of the issues. That all search results from a wide variety of sources would be instantly available.
But it isn’t.
People have to be willing to specifically search outside of their interests to see the news. Companies like facebook and google track your web activities and filter what you see based on what they know about you and what their programs think you like. This can be a problem, especially when the one of the big reasons that people seem to get their news online is because they don’t trust traditional media and news stations.
I asked a couple of students from Unity about their habits when it comes to using new media as a source of news.
I like to regularly look at sources like Vice, Motherboard, and Mother Jones to get updated on news topics. Even sometimes Facebook and Twitter can provide a trustworthy experience and show what is only censored on traditional outlets.
Chad Buendia ‘17
The students here see the world in a different way. The news isn’t something that you watch by yourself on the couch and the complain about the next day, to them it is something that you actively communicate about. Using new media platforms like facebook also offer the opportunity to share news stories to a wide audience.
When I asked my friend Abe about how he uses approaches using new media as a news source he said,
“When you share a news story on facebook or retweet it on twitter, often times you’re allowing someone new to see it. You might have a friend who had no idea or even knew they cared that feeding bread to ducks was bad for them; but because you shared some random article on Facebook about it, they now know to do something different.”
Using new media for news comes with it’s challenges. We know that not everything on the internet is true, and sometimes it can be really hard to figure out fact from fiction. The students that I talked too all mentioned that they don’t do extensive research into the credentials on some of their stories. They were more likely to immediately trust the story when it came from sites like Vice, but they did say that they all fall victim to just reading the headline and sharing the story at least once. My friend Ryan said something that really struck me.
It’s a fault of ours. Some of us are just too lazy or don’t care enough to dig deep into the background. If it seems legit, then it’s probably going to get shared. After all, who’s fault is it if they believe something that I posted?
Students here have a laxed outlook on responsibility. I don’t want to generalize because I know a lot of adults who do fact-check their information, but I also know a decent amount who do not. Is it their fault if others believe the false information that they shared? Or does the responsibility lie with the consumer?